MY column the other day about Larsian had some of my friends sharing their memories of the old eatery (not the “improved” one that Capitol and Cebu City Hall will subject to another renovation). By the way, I tried buying food from Larsian weeks ago when my wife got admitted at the Chong Hua Hospital. I backed off after asking for the price of the food sold there. “Makabuslot sa bulsa,” I thought. Which wasn’t like the Larsian of old that I knew.
Writing about this reminded me of my days in The Freeman, the first newspaper I worked with before I transferred to SunStar Cebu in 1997. Our cramped office was then on the ground floor of the Gullas building at the corner of V. Gullas and D. Jakosalem Sts. I came in when the editors, led by editor-in-chief Juanito Jabat and managing editor Jerry Tundag, with news editor Glen Basubas, were men. Among the reporters stood out one colorful personality, Hermes Suaring.
Hermes had an illness that affected his upper arms and neck, causing his head to jerk to one side ever so often. I first knew him in dyLA where he was a reporter when I became a staff member of the radio station under Cerge M. Remonde. Hermes treated me as a newbie and constantly offered me “words of wisdom,” including a putdown of broadcasters (print is more respected than broadcast, he would tell me). So I gravitated to him in my early days in The Freeman.
One time, Glen and senior reporter Beverly Lomosad (a “he” and not a “she”) talked about eating out. “Balbacua” and “lansiao” were mentioned. So we went to their favorite eatery along Colon St. in the area near the Gaisano South where a bank now stands. Interestingly, despite his jerking movements, Hermes did drive his own motorcycle. I rode with him despite my initial hesitation.
The eatery was in a makeshift structure with the roof made from plastic curtains propped up in the middle by a wooden post. It had gravel for a floor. There were I think more than 10 tables and only few of them were not occupied. Because of the number of customers, the helpers could not immediately clean the tables and wash the plates, spoon and fork left behind, inviting the flies. Those plates, spoon and fork were washed using meager water browned with use.
Hermes, noting my discomfiture whispered to me, “Mao ni nagda sa lami, bay.”
Years later, my friends and I ate in a high-end restaurant offering Cebuano favorites like adobo and, yes, “balbacua.” We didn’t like the taste of the latter. Which reminded me of Hermes and his “words of wisdom.” But actually it must have been the cook and how he or she prepared the food. Yet it did seem like something was missing in such a formal setting. Wa didto ang lami.
I have written before about two worlds, one populated by the moneyed and the other by the cash-strapped. There is, say, SM Seaside City and there is the sidewalk of Colon. The two of them serve different clientele with different tastes. Sadly, government seems so focused on the moneyed world that they neglect the cash-strapped world. Or when they come up with development plans, they arbitrarily impose the standards of the world of the moneyed on the world of the cash-strapped.